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8 lesser known facts about Dysmenorrhea

- 5 min read
written by Shield Connect

It’s an absolute blessing to be a woman, to have the ability to create life, to be emotionally & mentally strong and to be gentle yet be fierce as a lioness when the situation asks for it. But like almost all beautiful and treasured things in life come at a cost, so does womanhood.

Period pain is the throbbing or cramping pain during periods in the lower abdomen, lower back and thighs sometimes accompanied with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or sometimes heavy bleeding. If you have been a victim of dysmenorrhea (painful periods) you should know that about 80% of women have been in the same boat (at some point of time in life) as you.

Worry not, you don’t have to put yourself through the sheer agony anymore. We have compiled the list of treatments and facts about primary dysmenorrhea and we hope they come in handy for you.

Reminder: If you experience painful periods then you shouldn’t suffer, instead consult a doctor, get yourself checked and fight away the woes of pain as many great treatment options are available.

 

FACT #1: DYSMENORRHEA: WHAT AND WHY

Even though most women (80%) suffer from pain and/or cramps on the first 1 or 2 days of the periods, in 5-10% of women the pain is so severe that it can disrupt the daily life. It can cause school, college or work absenteeism. Lack of concentration, disruption in studies/works also commonly experienced. Some women/girls are forced to spend the days lying on the bed due to pain.

In 40% of women premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are observed right before periods which include bloating, mood swings, tender breasts etc.

Menstrual cramps are caused by contraction (tightening) of the muscles in the uterus (womb) due to a chemical called prostaglandin. The contractions occur to shed the lining of the uterus which comes out of the vagina in the form of blood and mucus. If the contractions are too strong it can press against the nearby blood-vessels and cut-off the oxygen supply. The decreased blood supply to the muscles results in pain.

Dysmenorrhea, meaning period pain, usually occurs in the lower abdomen which can travel to the lower back, hips and thighs.

FACT #2: IS IT PRIMARY OR SECONDARY DYSMENORRHEA?

Primary Dysmenorrhea: This refers to menstrual cramps and it usually occurs in the first 3 days of the periods or just before the periods. It generally occurs during the start of menstrual life, that is around the teenage years. It gets better or goes away as one grows older or has a baby. It can be relieved by medication, exercise and other methods.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea: This refers to the menstrual pain that occurs due to some underlying health issue. It usually occurs later in life (twenties-thirties). It can occur during, before or after the periods and can get worse as one grows older.

Following are some of the causes which can lead to Secondary Dysmenorrhea:

  • Fibroids: Non-cancerous growths within the walls of the uterus.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Infection involving female reproductive organs like uterus, fallopian tubes.
  • Endometriosis: Growth of the tissue that lines the uterus outside the uterus.

You need a doctor’s consultation to find out if you are suffering from primary or secondary dysmenorrhea and to find out the underlying cause of secondary dysmenorrhea. Usually treating the underlying cause helps in secondary dysmenorrhea.

We are mainly going to discuss about primary dysmenorrhea here.

FACT #3 WHICH MEDICATIONS HELP?

Though most of the over-the-counter medicines help, a doctor’s consultation is essential before you start taking them. Here is the list of the medications:

 

  1. PAINKILLERS: NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) like Ibuprofen, Mefenamic acid are proven to be helpful to combat menstrual pain and cramps by blocking the effect of prostaglandins on the muscles of the womb.
  2. NATURAL INGREDIENT BASED PAINKILLERS: These contain natural extracts or ingredients including fennel, curcumin, rosemary extract and bromelain. Since these are natural ingredients so there are no known side effects and yet are equally effective.
  3. ANTISPASMODICS: relax the muscles of the womb and may be prescribed for dysmenorrhea when the pain is spasmodic (cramps).
  4. ORAL CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS (HORMONAL PILLS): These might not be suitable for all women and doctor’s prescription is necessary. Women on contraceptive pills tend to have less bleeding, regular periods and milder period pain.

FACT #4 DO LIFESTYLE CHANGES HELP?

A big yes for this one. Smoking cessation, reduction in alcohol consumption, exercise and good sleep hygiene all together help in period pain relief.

Smoking Cessation: It is essential to stop or cut down on smoking. Studies have shown that smoking increases the incidence of period pain by reducing oxygen supply to the pelvic region.

Reducing Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can mess with your periods in many ways. It can disturb the hormone levels making periods irregular or leading to missed periods, they can cause longer duration of period pain and make you more susceptible to cramps due to dehydration.

Exercise: Obesity and overweight are etiological factors contributing to dysmenorrhea. A healthy diet and work-out can help you with weight reduction when followed regularly. Exercise not only helps in weight reduction but also improves the blood flow to the pelvic area, hence helps reduce period pain and cramps.

 

Good sleep hygiene: Sleep hygiene includes a variety of habits and practices that help ensure a good night sleep and avoiding caffeine around bed time, having relaxing bed-time routine, etc. This helps establish proper rest and fights insomnia which could occur due to dysmenorrhea.

FACT #5 DO NUTRIENT SUPPLEMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Daily nutrient supply goes a long way in helping cope with the dysmenorrhea. A natural way of adding nutrients to your diet is to eat more fruits, vegetables and nuts. Here’s a list of the nutrient supplements and their benefits:

Fish Oil: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil dietary supplement is known to help in period pain relief.

Vitamin B: Another good contender in the list of dietary supplements for dysmenorrhea is vitamin B. It is proven to help reduce pain during periods.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps reduce period cramps as it reduces the production of prostaglandins which cause contractions of the womb muscles and leads to menstrual pain relief.

Calcium: Calcium is not only required for healthy bones but also heart, muscles and nervous system. Adequate calcium intake helps reduce menstrual cramps.

Magnesium: Magnesium helps alleviate period pain especially when taken with Vitamin B.

FACT #6 WHAT FOOD SHOULD BE AVOIDED?

  • Salt: Make sure to reduce the salt intake as salt leads to water retention and causes bloating.
  • Sugar: Sugar should be consumed in moderation as it can cause a rise and fall in energy and mood swings.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine rich items like coffee can cause bloating, exacerbate headache and can also cause digestive issues like diarrhoea.
  • Spicy Foods: These can lead to stomach upset leading to diarrhoea, stomach ache and even nausea.
  • Red Meat: Rich in prostaglandins, red meat can increase period cramps hence they are a big no-no during periods.

FACT #7 CAN ONE COMBAT DYSMENORRHEA NATURALLY?

Make sure to add less of saturated fats and high protein to your diet to help you cope better with dysmenorrhea.

FACT #7 CAN ONE COMBAT DYSMENORRHEA NATURALLY?

  • Water: Lots and lots of water should be added to the diet as staying hydrated helps in reducing period symptoms like bloating.
  • Chamomile or Ginger Tea: These help in period cramp relief as they are rich in anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Fennel seeds: Consumption of fennel seeds (Saunf) is known to inhibit contraction of the womb muscles which are caused by prostaglandins, thus it is one of the best remedies for period cramps.
  • Cinnamon: Consumption of cinnamon in the first 3 days of menstrual cycle leads to reduced bleeding in periods, less period pain and reduction in nausea.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin is the main component of turmeric (Haldi) which is anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, hence helps alleviate period pain and cramps.
  • Rosemary extract: According to some studies, Rosemary extract has been proven to be as effective as a popular painkiller (mefenamic acid) for dysmenorrhea.
  • Bromelain: An enzyme found in pineapples, Bromelain, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as it helps in alleviating the period cramps.

Fact #8 TREAT WITH HEAT?

Heat treatment is an another answer to relieve your painful cramps during periods. It promises to instantly help and has no side-effects. Also, there are so many ways in which you can treat yourself like:

-Placing a hot-water bottle or a heating pad or a warm towel on your belly and pelvic area

-Taking a warm water bath

-Sipping hot beverages like tea, soup

– Massaging the lower belly and lower back with some warm oil may also help
 

 

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